Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My best memory of OSU/UM basketball

It was January 18th, 1988. I was a freshman at Ohio State and as a member of Block O, I had some amazing courtside seats at St. John Arena. Literally, I was in the front row in the seat NEXT TO the basket.

Michigan came to town that night at 14-1. They were ranked 7th in the nation. The game was broadcast live on national TV.

Michigan had players like Glenn Rice and Rumeal Robinson. One year later, this team would win the NCAA Title, so you have a capsule of how good they were.

Ohio State had players named Tony White, Steve Francis, Jay Burson, Grady Mateen...names you would only know if you were a fan of the Buckeyes, because they weren't going to make it big in the NBA for certain.

SJA was on fire from the start because Ohio State had just knocked off 17th-ranked Iowa a few days ago, and the obvious excitement that comes with playing your school's biggest rival at home.

Back and forth the game went. Ohio State led by 3, Michigan led by 4. The game always stayed within 7-9 points. With 45 seconds to play, we were up 2 points, and the ball was in the sure hands of Burson. We wound the clock down to 30 seconds, and the shot clock was winding down. Burson drove the lane and lost the ball to Michigan off his foot. But he kept going and dove into a Wolverine player holding the ball and forced a tie-up. And Ohio State had the possession arrow!

The Buckeyes had the chance to run out the clock or get fouled and add to the lead at the line....but we threw the inbounds pass away. Michigan went down the floor and Rice hit a shot to tie the game at 68-68 with 13 seconds to play.

The Buckeyes then schooled Michigan with passes. They went from end-to-end in six seconds with three amazing passes, and the ball NEVER touched the hardwood floor. The final pass led to a wide-open slam dunk by Mateen, who then danced his way back up the court. Robinson fell down as he scrambled to get in the lane and the ball skipped away, but it still got into Rice's hands, who launched a three at the buzzer. It glanced off the rim, and 13,230 fans went wild.

A pile-up occurred under the basket with Buckeye players leaping on top of each other in celebration. Watching the tape later that night, I saw Jerry Francis looking like he was crying on his way back to the locker room, swatting high-fives with fans so hard that he might have broken an arm or two.

I love the Buckeye team of Greg Oden and Michael Conley.

I'll always cherish the years of Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd.

I'll forever praise Jimmy Jackson and Treg Lee.

But nothing will compare to the night guys named Mateen, Burson, Francis and White gave us a present nobody expected.

Tonight's game is under way. Excuse me while I watch.


Annapolisbuckeye said...

Jay Burson, what an amazing player from a guy you'd least expect to see on a basketball court--small and agresive.

Remember the last time you saw him play? He slid headfirst into the pole during the first half, came back the second and scored 19 points. After the game he finds out that he had broken a bone in his neck when he hit the pole. The next time you see him, he is wearing one of those halo things with pins going into his skull.

Nineteen point with a broken neck. You don't find players like that very often.

woodyhayes68 said...

I can still see Grady windmilling his arms as he ran back on defense following the dunk. I saw this on ESPN with my wife sleeping next to me. I have never yelled so quitely...lmao.

I have this on VHS somewhere. PM me at BuckeyePlanet if interested and I'll try to find it. I don't know if I have the complete game, but I could probably at least do some clips.

Anonymous said...

I will always remember two things about Jay Burson: 1) I had to show my then-wife about this Ohio State guard. She said. "oh my God, Ohio State is recruiting junior high school players!!" 2) Watching the Buckeyes playing Indiana, Burson knifed between two much-larger Hoosiers, grabbing the offensive rebound, making a pump-fake to get the defenders in the air, and banking the shot and drawing the foul. I thought Bobby Knight was going to have a heart attack or stroke--his face redder than his teams uniforms.

What a tremendous player, who made his teammates better. Thank you, Mr. Burson.